Chicken is one of the most versatile meats; it lends itself well to almost any recipe and is pretty uniformly easy to cook, no matter if you’re cooking a whole chicken or a smaller cut such as thighs or breasts.
Cooking chicken isn’t a foolproof process though. Since chicken is lower in fat than many other meats, it can have a tendency to become dry and chewy if not cooked properly. It’s important to cook chicken at the proper temperature and for the proper length of time to avoid these pitfalls. Chicken breast in particular, since it is both larger in size and lower in fat than other cuts of chicken, can be a bit tricky sometimes, but once you get the hang of cooking chicken breasts properly, it’s a game changer for your meals. No more trying to cut through a chewy, dried out piece of chicken that’s been overcooked and trying to hide the rubbery flavor behind barbecue sauce.
Sometimes, a few little tweaks in your cooking routine can make all the difference. From cooking at the right temperature to adding just a couple more tools and steps to your meal prep, a little bit of change can go a long way to improving the taste and texture of your meat. In this post, we’ll give you some tips on how long to bake chicken breast and some other helpful hints for perfectly cooked chicken.
Time and Temperature Go Hand in Hand
How long you bake chicken breasts can depend on the temperature of your oven. While you may think that cooking at a lower temperature will keep your chicken breasts from drying out, it’s actually the opposite. According to Taste of Home’s test kitchen, baking your chicken breasts at a higher temperature - 425 degrees fahrenheit seems to be the sweet spot - allows them to cook faster, and retain more moisture in the process. By cooking your chicken breasts at a higher temperature you lower the necessary cooking time to about 15-20 minutes (depending on the thickness of your breast), which gives the chicken enough time to cook fully but not enough time to become dry and chewy.
As always, make sure your chicken is cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees before serving. We’re big proponents of meat thermometers, to help take the guesswork out of whether or not your chicken is done. There’s a very fine line between chicken that’s undercooked and unsafe to eat to chicken that is dry and the texture of rubber. Stop taking your chicken breasts out of the oven multiple times and slicing them in various places until the juices run clear. You wind up with a final product that looks like it’s been cooked by Edward Scissorhands. Let a meat thermometer do the work for you so you don’t have to stress out and end up with dry, overcooked, sliced up chicken in the process.
Helpful Tips for Perfectly Cooked Chicken
Cooking for the correct time and at the correct temperature are super important, but there are other tricks for perfectly cooked chicken breasts.
- Don’t forget to marinate! Whether you prefer a liquid marinade/brine or a rub, adding this step before cooking your meat helps to both season and tenderize your chicken breasts prior to cooking.
Simple Oven Baked Chicken Breasts
If you’re looking for a simple recipe for baked chicken breasts, we love this one from Cafedelites.com. You can substitute coconut sugar for the brown sugar to keep it paleo, or feel free to omit the sugar altogether - these spices go together quite nicely even without the crispy sugar crust.
1 tablespoon coconut sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano, (or thyme, parsley, rosemary)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon chili powder, (or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper) -- optional if you like a bit of spice
4 large chicken breasts
1 tablespoon olive oil
While compiling your ingredients, preheat your oven to 425°F so it can begin heating while you prep.
Pound each chicken breast with your meat mallet to about three quarters of an inch thick, and sprinkle them with half of the salt and half of the pepper to begin to tenderize them while you mix your other spices. Remember to make sure your breasts are uniformly thick so they cook evenly. Combine your spices, and line a baking pan with foil or parchment paper. Place your chicken on the baking pan and coat it with the seasoning before drizzling it with olive oil and rubbing the seasoning to evenly coat the chicken.
Bake the chicken in a preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until your meat thermometer reads an internal temperature of 165°F. We recommend testing the temperature at 15 minutes so you know how much longer (if at all) you need to keep the chicken in the oven. If your chicken is almost to safe temperature at 15 minutes, go ahead and take it out, as it will cook a bit more during the next broiling step.
Remove parchment paper, if using, and broil on high heat for 2-3 minutes of cooking until the color is golden and the chicken is crisp.
Remember to let the chicken rest for 5-10 minutes after cooking for a delicious, tender, and juicy final product.